Of all the British colonies in sub-Saharan
Africa, Ghana was the first to become independent. In
1957 the country became a nation of the Commonwealth
(Britain and former British colonies), with Kwame
Nkrumah as the first prime minister. In 1960, Ghana
became the republic and Nkrumah its first president. He
ran a socialist policy, which ended in economic failure.
Since Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup in 1966,
Ghana was ruled by a series of military regimes before a
democratization began in the 1990s. The 2001
presidential shift between Jerry Rawlings and John
Kufuor became the first in Ghana to take place through a
Kwame Nkrumah, who had led the independence struggle
against the British (see Older History), had new
industries, roads and schools built. But the
state-controlled economy and Nkrumah's contacts with
communist Eastern Europe caused the Western world to
withdraw its financial support for the country. Ghana
was also hit hard by falling cocoa prices.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Ghana. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Nkrumah's rule was characterized by growing
corruption and intolerance against the opposition. After
a constitutional change, in 1964 Ghana became a
one-party state under Nkrumah's radical, Socialist
Assembly People's Party (CPP).
A series of military coups
Increasing dissatisfaction with Nkrumah's politics
and the country's rapidly deteriorating economy led to a
group of high-ranking military in 1966 dismissing the
president. The one-party system and the 1964
constitution were annulled by the military regime, which
allowed the CPP to dissolve. The coup makers adapted the
market to the economy, which led Western countries to
start providing financial support to Ghana again. A new
constitution was written and general elections were held
in 1969. A civil government took office.
However, the economic mismanagement became even worse
during the civilian government, which was deposed in
1972 in a military coup led by Colonel Ignatius
Acheampong. Under him, the economic crunch continued due
to poor harvests and a high price of oil, which Ghana
must import. Corrupted military enriched themselves
while the commodity shortage was getting worse.
Acheampong promised a return to civilian rule but was
deposed in 1978 in a palace coup.
After the coup, general elections were prepared, but
in June 1979, two weeks before the planned election, a
group of young officers led by Nkrumah-friendly aviation
lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings conducted another coup.
The election was then held under Rawling's supervision.
Winning became the People's National Party (PNP), led by
Hilla Limann. Before Rawlings surrendered power to
Limann, he let three former military leaders, including
Acheampong, execute and imprison hundreds of officers
and officials. Spent money was seized and withheld taxes
Rawlings back to power
Limann's presidential term was characterized by
continued economic downturn combined with fierce power
struggles within the ruling PNP. On New Year's Eve 1981,
Rawlings regained power. All political bodies were
dissolved, the constitution was repealed and the parties
banned. Instead, the country was governed by a
military-dominated defense council (Provisional National
Defense Council, PNDC), led by Rawlings. At the local
level, so-called Peoples Defense Committees, later
called Revolution Committees, were appointed.
Rawling's takeover of power and subsequent purge of
the military triggered a series of coup attempts in the
following years. The regime's economic austerity policy
created conflicts with both unions and students.
Following pressure from Western aid donors, a return to
civilian rule was being prepared. A new constitution was
adopted in a 1992 referendum by a large majority (see
Political system). The party ban was lifted and six new
parties formed. The PNDC's supporters supported the
formation of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Presidential elections were held in November 1992.
Since the opposition was divided, Rawlings won over 58
percent of the vote. Foreign observers felt that
everything had gone right, but the opposition claimed
that there was an election fraud and boycotted the
parliamentary elections in December that year. As a
result, NDC and its allies received all but two
mandates. In January 1993, Rawlings officially took
office as President and the Governing Council dissolved.
The Nkrumah followers lose power
In 1994, disputes in northern Ghana erupted between
the landless people group Konkomba and the landowned
nanumba. Violence increased as other ethnic groups
allied themselves with either side. About 1,000 people
were killed and more than 150,000 residents fled the
area before a peace agreement could be concluded.
Occasional outbreaks of violence between the two groups
then occurred throughout the 1990s.
A rapid democratization began in the early 1990s, and
economic neglect declined. The economy began to grow
when Ghana became one of the Western donors' favorites
In the 1996 elections, the opposition offered the
government side proper resistance. Although the NDC
gained its own majority, the market liberal New
Patriotic Party (NPP) took 61 of the 200 seats. Rawlings
was re-elected as President.
During the latter part of the 1990s, popular
dissatisfaction increased again, partly because the
economy again turned downward. The greater part of the
population had not been aware of the increased wealth
earlier in the decade. Rawling's government was also
accused of corruption.
In the 2000 presidential election, NPP's candidate,
Oxford-trained lawyer John Agyekum Kufour, who has been
a Member of Parliament since 1969. defeated Kufuor as a
member of the royal family of the old Ashanti kingdom.
The market liberal NPP gained a slight overweight over
the NDC in the parliamentary elections that year. The
political heirs of Kwame Nkrumah ended up in opposition,
after Jerry John Rawlings left the presidential post
after 19 years.
Historical shift in power
Kufuor's victory became a milestone in Ghanaian
politics when a switch to the presidential post for the
first time in the country's history took place through a
democratic election. Independent observers described the
2000 election as one of the freest, best-organized, and
most justice-driven in Africa, despite the occasional
President Kufuor's political program was reminiscent
of his predecessor, but he was taken to power by voters
who had tired of Rawling's authoritarian and sometimes
unpredictable leadership style. Kufuor emphasized the
fight against corruption and the expansion of school and
care. A Truth Commission was set up in 2002 to gather
testimony on human rights violations committed under
Rawling's military rule. The Commission's final report
was published in 2005 (see Political system).
Kufuor and NPP strengthened their positions in the
2004 elections, which were conducted under calm
conditions, with the exception of minor unrest in the
north. As in the previous election, Kufuor defeated
Rawling's former vice president John Evans Atta Mills,
an academic and tax expert who was the NDC's candidate.
Kufuor was favored by the fact that an increasingly
strong economy is now beginning to be felt in people's
everyday lives. Inflation fell, and NPP was also able to
show improvements in healthcare, maternity care and
school care. Legal security and media freedom were also
considered to have been strengthened during NPP's time
in power (2000–2008).
The Nkrumahists are back in office
In the first round of the presidential election in
December 2008, NPP candidate Nana Akufo-Addo barely won
over NDC's Mills, but as no candidate achieved 50
percent, a second and decisive round between the two
candidates who received the most votes, ie Mills and
Akufo-Addo. In the parliamentary elections that were
conducted simultaneously, NPP lost by a marginal margin
its former majority to the NDC. International observers
considered the election to be correct.
The second round of the presidential elections later
that month became extremely smooth. Mills won with 50.2
percent of the vote against 49.8 percent for Akufo-Addo.
Both parties accused each other of cheating, but the
Election Commission found the evidence insufficient.
During his term of office (2008–2012), President
Mill's Social Democratic NDC government practiced
essentially the same economic policy as the NPP had done
since the turn of the millennium. The influential
finance minister Kwabena Duffuor soon began unpopular
budgetary tightening. Mills enjoyed the respect of many
Ghanaians, but his authority within the party was
constantly challenged by the mighty Jerry Rawlings.
Ahead of the December 2012 presidential election,
Rawling's wife Nana Konadu Rawlings competed against
Mills to become the NDC candidate. The challenge was
seen as an attempt by Jerry Rawlings to strengthen his
position within the party. It became a bitter political
battle, in which President Mills was accused of
corruption and of repelling the NDC's traditional
supporters. Mills struggled to hold the NDC together,
and at the July 2011 party congress, he won a convincing
victory and was named the party's presidential
President Mills's unexpected death in July 2012
suddenly changed the conditions for the upcoming